Moritz Küstner
The Silence is the Sound of Fear

The Crimean Peninsula is connected to the Ukrainian mainland only by a narrow isthmus. Since its annexation by Russia in March 2014, the economic situation there has significantly worsened. Tourism, the main source of income, has decreased by nearly 50 per cent. The new border isolates the peninsula from the mainland, a situation that frequently leads to supply shortages for the 2.3 million Crimean inhabitants. Moreover, the peninsula’s affiliation under international law is controversial. The Muslim Crimean Tatars, who are considered to be an indigenous people, are suffering under the new Russian regime. In 1944, Stalin had the Crimean Tatars deported to Siberia; nearly one-third lost their lives. It was not until 1988, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, that they were allowed to return to their homeland. They are now seen as anti-Russian and are often targeted by the Russian authorities. Nevertheless, they feel so strongly connected to their homeland that for many, it is difficult to imagine leaving.

  • Community
  • Homeland
  • Identity
  • Russia
3 Questions
1. The door opener: Can you describe a formative moment in your career as a visual journalist?

I’m always fascinated when people let me get close and look into their lives. The first time this happened was in Estonia in 2012, when I created a story about Rita, a mother of three who was addicted to heroin and HIV-positive, like many Estonians of her generation when compared to the rest of Europe. Rita trusted me, told me her story and let me follow her life photographically. These moments when I – often unexpectedly – am given access to unfamiliar worlds are greatly enriching to me and my motivations as a visual journalist.

2. The decisive moment: When did you first encounter your topic and why did you decide to cover it photographically?

In 2014, Crimea was at the centre of public attention when the Russian takeover happened. I followed the political movements with horror and fascination. That was when I became interested in the Crimean Tatars, the oldest ethnic group living there. When I was looking for a topic for my final project at Hanover University of Applied Sciences and Arts, the media interest in Crimea was just starting to dwindle. I wanted to find out how things were going for the Crimean Tatars, who had previously placed so much hope in intervention from the European Union and also in reporting from the Western media.

3. The future: What could the visual journalism of the future be like?

I believe that the visual journalism of the future must become much more diverse in order to show us new perspectives far beyond our reality or bubble. If journalism will not simply provide answers to patterns we already know, then pictures by photographers of other origins, gender identities and ethnic affiliations, or who come from different social classes than we do, must be seen as well. This is the only way to awaken questions within us that we must examine. Pictures will never be able to explain the world, but they help us gain access to subjects and new levels of seeing.


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Photographer Moritz Küstner speaks about his long-term project The Silence is the Sound of Fear.

»During my work, I observed how the Crimean Tatars and their culture were changing.«

Moritz Küstner

Curated by David Oswald

© for all photos by the photographers
© for all videos Lumix Festival Hanover, if not indicated otherwise.

*1989 in Erfurt, Germany
Moritz Küstner studied Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at Hanover University of Applied Sciences and Arts as well as the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Aarhus. As a freelance journalist, he works for CNN, Stern, Süddeutsche Magazin, DIE ZEIT and other media. He developed his photo-reportage about the life of the Crimean Tatars with the support of a Crossing Borders scholarship from the Robert Bosch Foundation.


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